Guitar Zen: Good Times with Odd Times!

As guitarists we are usually up for a challenge, one of the ways I really like to challenge myself is to wrap my head around odd times.


There are many ways to take a simple riff and syncopate it in order to make it take on a whole new twist. Odd time signatures are not something that should scare off the average musician, after all we are just adding or subtracting beats to make the rhythm shift. The key is to feel the groove of the riff. Whether you are playing in 4, 5 or 7…. what’s going to give presence and power to the riff is getting in the groove. Any riff can be groovy no matter how technically involved it is, but to give it THAT groove, you have to really feel the pulse of the phrase and then give precedence to the 1 or the first note of the beat so that the vibe of the riff is distinguishable.


As guitarists we tend to count differently than drummers or even bassists because we do things like play a pick-up note, or come in half a bar later when dealing with odd times. Remember that music is a language all it’s own. As long as you emphasize the right notes in the segment, you will achieve the goal you are seeking and then afterward, everything will sync up.


Take for instance a simple 4/4 phrase and just chug any chord using quarter notes (CHUG chug chug chug, CHUG chug chug chug). Now lets put a twist on it and add a fifth quarter note then follow it with three quarter notes (so CHUG chug chug chug chug CHUG chug chug). We’ve now effectively played the same number of notes yet we have changed the emphasis of the starting beat. So you can see how (as Mike Myers so non- eloquently put it in the movie A View From The Top) It’s all about putting the right emPHASSIS on the right syLLABLE!

As you can see, shifting the tempo is really a matter of shifting your thinking to accentuate different notes. With this simple concept in mind, anyone can turn Metallica into Meshuggah. So bust a beat and shuffle your feet and once you do you’ll be having GOOD TIMES with ODD TIMES!!!

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